Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Catholic Church's Lawsuit Meets Just War Criteria

In Catholic Just War Doctrine, there are four criteria that need to be met before a country can declare war. A country declaring war must show that

1) All other options (negotiation, dialogue, diplomacy) must have been exhausted
2) The damage inflicted by the aggressor must be grave and lasting (the aggressor shows no signs of letting up or turning back)
3) The country declaring war has to have a reasonable shot at winning
4) The collateral damage from the war has to be less than what would have happened had there been no intervention

To look at the classic just war, WWII on the European Front
1) Negotiations with Hitler were attempted at length
2) Hitler showed no signs of changing course
3) The U.S. and its allies had a reasonable shot of winning
4) It's clear that had Hitler been unchecked he would have caused far worse damage than what resulted from WWII

Now, with yesterday's news that basically the Catholic Church (dioceses, newspapers, universities) in the U.S. is suing President Obama, it is fair to say that this declaration of war, this "nuclear option" is just on the part of the Church.
1) We have tried negotiating with the President (some would say TOO long, i.e. President Jenkins at Notre Dame, who is, ironically, joining in the lawsuit as well. Is it angry to ask ND how the "dialogue" is going at this point?)
2) It is quite clear to everyone except E.J. Dionne and Sr. Keehan that the President isn't changing course one bit
3) The Catholic Church has a reasonable shot at winning this battle if we stand up and fight
4) Any political relationships that will be damaged through this lawsuit are going to be a far smaller loss than the damage done to the Church had we not stood up and done this.

I love that the Church here is going on the offensive. It will be really interesting to see how this war plays out. I, for one, am thrilled that the Church is standing up and drawing a line in the sand and finally pushing back as ONE. Whatever the result, at least we can tell future generations we didn't sit back on our hands and just hope for the best.


  1. I love the way you put this. Great way to look at the events- thank you! :)

  2. The main problem is that "just" is a concept which is relative to a particular value system. Since different populations have different value systems, coming from different religions, philosophies, conditions, needs, history, and so forth, and even the same population will have different value systems at different times, different populations will consider the concept "just" in different ways. Thus as a philosophical idea, a just war does not have a consistent definition when your domain of definition is wide enough to be of any use. Further, except in extreme cases the concept of a just war usually includes the goal of peace, yet it will inevitably lead to conflict due to the differences of value systems, thus defeating its own purpose. Hence it is not even a self-consistent theory. When Augustine and Thomas Aquinas used Just War, the reasoning they brought to the idea was from their own time, not our own. Also the philosophy of Augustine and Aquinas is based on Greek Philosophy, which was not based on Christian principles. The End, never justifies the means.

    1. The moral relativism in that statement is astounding! How many years of post-graduate studies did it take to produce such an intellect?

    2. According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of "war" is: "a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end--a class war; a war against disease." I believe this is the kind of war to which Father is referring. There is nothing un-Christian about standing up and defending what is right and good. It seems standing up for a right so basic as the freedom of religion is worth fighting for. We are not talking about the use of lethal weapons, but the courts to achieve victory, and that victory will be the preservation of the freedom of religion for all Americans--not just Catholics. This is not an evil "means" to an end.

    3. If war is inherently evil, then being a soldier is inherently evil. However, when we encounter military men in the NT, we don't see such. When soldiers ask John the Baptist what they should do, he tells them not to extort, not to abandon their duty. Our Lord himself had a parable about the cost of discipleship and compared it to a general making sure he had enough men and material to prevail in battle. Now one can squawk that it is just a parable, but I happen to believe Our Lord would not use an inherently evil act as a model in a parable. In the end, this always struck me as the attempts to make drinking alcohol inherently evil and that when wine appears in the NT, it is actually grape juice. Then there is the fact that you can't get a consistent argument from the naysayers--one minute the Church is too Platonic, the next it's too Aristotelian. Oi vey.

    4. P.S. Here is Dave Armstrong's entry: Pacifism vs. "Just War": Biblical and Social Factors Which goes into more biblical evidence that I wasn't aware of. And here is a dialog trying to critique (desperately, imho) Dave's entry: http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2004/03/dialogue-on-christian-pacifism-and-just.html

      Scott W.

    5. Anonymous - the philosophy of Augustine and Aquinas is based completely on logic and reason. Christian principles are fundamentally logical, and there is no conflict between faith and reason. Philosophical, logical principles apply to the general, not to the specific, and therefore are timeless.
      Rebecca W.

  3. I can't believe ND joined in a lawsuit, thats a bigger surprise than the victory at Lepanto. Way to go Rosary prayers!